Monday, March 06, 2006

Orange Alert: Carrot Cutlets

I picked out Kira Petrovskaya’s Russian Cookbook, the most orange book on my shelf, this week to look for a recipe for Alicat and Sara’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge, in which the pilgrims seek to make something orange. This vividly colored offering is for Sweetnicks as well.

My copy of Petrovskaya’s book is the 1992 Dover edition. The book was originally published by Prentiss Hall in 1961 as Kyra’s Secrets of Russian Cooking. Maybe they felt they had to change the title because “secrets” was no longer an appropriate word for the post cold war era, or because the proliferation of Russian cookbooks in English in recent decades made the cuisines of Russia less secret, or both. I can’t guess why they changed the Romanization of the author’s name.

This book has many charming features. There is a recipe for “Cauliflower Under Sauce.” One of the chapter headings is “Things Made With Dough. I like that. If the chapter is about things made with dough, why on earth should you call it anything other than “Things Made With Dough”?

I was afraid that Russian cuisine might not lend itself especially to oranginess, but providentially, the very first page to which the book fell open had a recipe for Carrot Kotlety, or carrot cutlets. This recipe is different from a number of carrot latke recipes I’ve seen in that the carrots are cooked first, and they are cooked in milk, along with semolina. Cooking the carrots in milk reminds me of gajar halva, a very sweet carrot fudge, and of a scene in Little House in the Big Woods in which Ma cooks carrots in milk to make color the winter butter yellow. The girls loved eating the carrots left over from this process.

This sounds like a lot of fun, though I was concerned at first about whether such a soft batter would fry up into stable little kotlety.

I double recipes almost compulsively, but the recipe as printed calls for two and a half pounds of carrots, and that seemed like too much even for me. I thought carrot kotlety might not lend themselves to repeated re-heatings, so I halved the recipe, using the proportions listed below:

Carrot Kotlety

1 ¼ pounds carrots (4 cups grated)
1 cup milk (the original calls for hot milk, but you’re going to cook it anyway—it’ll get hot then)
1 teaspoon butter
A few pinches sugar (the original calls for more)
1/3 cup semolina (original: Semolina or Farina)
2 eggs
1/3 cup breadcrumbs

Wash and shred carrots, place in a cooking pot and add hot milk, butter, sugar and a dash of salt and cover with a lid [a cooking pot! I’m smiling about that]. Stir often and watch that the carrots don’t burn (cook over low fire).

When the carrots are tender [how long? She doesn’t say. It took about 20 minutes] slowly add Farina or Semolina stirring constantly and cook over slow fire for another 8-10 minutes [capitalization in original]. Remove carrots from the fire, cool for 2-3 minutes and add the egg yolks. Mix thoroughly and cool. When the mixture is completely cool, form cutlets, brush with egg white, and roll in breadcrumbs. Fry in butter on both sides until golden.

Serve with sour cream or milk sauce. Serves four.

I’m glad I tried this. If I make them again I might season the carrots a little more aggressively, maybe with pepper, or perhaps with a cardamom pod, to go after the halva effect. They are very nice and carroty as is.

Petrovskaya, Kyra. Kyra's Secrets of Russian Cooking. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1961.

Wayne, Kyra Petrovskaya. Russian Cookbook. New York: Dover, 1992.


Blogger Alanna Kellogg said...

A new way for carrots! Love the [commentary] along the way ...

8:15 AM  
Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

Very interesting idea.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Cate said...

Never would have thought of carrot cutlets...

10:32 PM  
Blogger Delicious said...

Wait, you say the recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds of carrots and you halved it, but the recipe says 2 1/4 pounds. 1 1/4 pounds, I guess?

I feel like an idiot even for pointing it out, but I tend to cook mindlessly.

12:58 AM  
Blogger the chocolate doctor מרת שאקאלאד said...

ak, kalyn, and sweetnicks,
thanks so much.

my faulty carrot math--how did that happen? Yes, I did use 1 and 1/4 pounds carrots--the volume measure--four cups-- is correct. Thank you, Delicious!

8:14 PM  

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